Until now it was just a brown line on a map.
But as the mechanical diggers trundled in last week to start laying pipework, the new Penwortham Bypass suddenly became a reality for those living alongside its northern end.
Contractors have moved in to relocate school football pitches which currently lie in the path of the £17.5m dual carriageway.
Their appearance in the farm fields facing houses in Howick Moor Lane brought home to residents that their outlook is about to change.
“We’ve had a lovely open view across the fields for the 40-odd years we’ve been here,” said one householder. “But not any more.”
While many home owners in Penwortham accept the need for a bypass to divert the traffic which regularly chokes up their town centre, the ones who will be looking out onto it are understandably less impressed.
“Yes, the bypass is needed to get so much of this traffic off Liverpool Road,” said Jacqueline Atherton, who has lived on Howick Moor Lane for 10 years and close by since 1974.
“I know how bad it is, especially in a morning and around tea-time. But our concern is it’s going to be very near our houses.
“Hopefully they will sort out landscaping and soundproofing. If they don’t then it’s going to be awful.”
The preliminary work before the bulldozers can start clearing the line of the 1.3km road is the reconfiguration of five soccer pitches which occupy a tract of land between Howick Moor Lane and the Howick CE Primary School.
The pitches will be relaid in a line along the lane down to All Hallows Catholic High School whose pupils use them during term time.
Lancashire County Council, which owns the land, has promised to landscape the border facing the homes - mainly bungalows owned by retired people.
Beyond the pitches the plans show the bypass will be screened behind an earth bund with acoustic fencing.
But with officers admitting it will take up to 15 years for the landscaping to completely screen the road from neighbouring properties, the pledge has done little to satisfy many home owners who raised objections when the scheme was at the consultation stage - more than 1,250 responded when the plans were announced.
According to documents submitted to South Ribble Council when the road project went before the borough’s planning committee for approval, the main issue raised was “about how close the new road would be to houses along Howick Moor Lane.
“Several of the properties have objected to the bypass as it will be an eyesore compared to the current views from these houses.”
Now those householders are being wooed by companies offering legal representation to pursue a claim for compensation.
“We have been bombarded with letters from surveyors asking if we want them to represent us in a compensation claim because of the noise and the inconvenience,” said Charles Monaghan.
“As you might expect, people objected to the road. But I think we are all agreed now we are stuck with it. And anyone wanting to sell their homes and relocate are stuck too.”
One resident, who asked not to be named, added: “We have lived here for more than 40 years and suddenly our view is disappearing. I know you can’t sue for a loss of view, but we paid a premium for this house compared to others round the back because it looked out onto green fields.”
Phill Wilson, project manager for the City Deal Infrastructure Delivery Team, said: “The Penwortham Bypass will tackle long-standing congestion through the town and help people’s journeys around the area.
“Public consultation took place with the local community as part of the statutory planning process and there has been plenty of local media coverage, including in the Lancashire Post itself.
“For all planning applications, notices are put up in the local area and nearby houses are contacted direct. We’ll be contacting people in the local area with a letter drop to update them on the scheme.”
How will it help to ease congestion?
Experts say the new bypass should reduce traffic through Penwortham’s main shopping street by up to 70 per cent.
An estimated 22,000 a day will use the new dual carriageway to avoid Liverpool Road and the queues that have blighted the town centre for years, especially during morning and afternoon rush hours.
If the plan works - and there are those who fear it will not - then Penwortham will be remodelled to make it more pedestrian and bus friendly.
Critics say the better solution would have been to build a road bridge from Howick over the River Ribble to carry traffic across to Blackpool Road and off to BAE Warton and to the Fylde Coast. The project has been talked about for decades and, whilst no funding is currently in place, County Hall chiefs say it is still in their thinking.
One man who strongly believes the bridge would solve Penwortham’s problems is Charles Monaghan, who lives just off Liverpool Road in Howick Moor Lane.
“I have stood for two hours at a time on the bridge going into Preston and most of the traffic coming through Penwortham doesn’t go into the city, it goes left into Strand Road or through the Docks,” he said.
Colin Tomlinson, whose home in Blackhurst Cottages will be even nearer to the bypass than those on Howick Moor Lane, said: “I don’t think the road will make much difference. It’s going to be a white elephant.“We need the bridge across the Ribble going the other way, that would solve things, not a road going the other way around Penwortham.
“And anyway, a lot of the traffic at rush hour is doing the school run. There are three high schools and five or six primary schools in Penwortham. You only need to see how much quieter it is when the schools are off.”
Locals fear parking problems will get worse
Residents living opposite school football pitches which are being relocated under the bypass plan have called “foul” on inconsiderate weekend users.
Householders in Howick Moor Lane say they have had to endure major parking problems outside their homes, which could only get worse when the pitches are moved closer to make way for the new road.
“We already struggle to get in and out of our drives because of cars parked down here when games are on,” said one home owner who asked not to be named.
“But now there will be five pitches all the way down our lane. It’s going to be a nightmare.”
Residents say the problems are not during school time when pupils at All Hallows Catholic High School use the fields for sport.
But at weekends the lane is congested with cars when the pitches are used by local football clubs for games. Litter and mud from players’ boots are also an issue. All Hallows say they will urge all clubs using the fields to be more considerate in future and have asked residents to contact them if the problem continues.
“One of the conditions of clubs using our pitches is that they don’t disrupt our neighbours,” said premises manager Richard Adamson. “We will have a chat to them and remind them of this and ask them to be mindful of the people living nearby.
“The school car park is the correct place to park, not down the lane. We do encourage people to park here at the school, but if there are people leaving their cars down the lane then I suspect it could be the away teams.”
Local councillor David Howarth said: “I have raised this point about parking with the county council as something that needs to be addressed. But I get the impression they don’t want to know. One resident recently filmed it with a dashboard camera and it was absolutely horrendous.
“You have to ask where is the public relations on this with the people most affected? Where is the communication?
“It’s not a very happy time for some of those residents and the communication from LCC is lacking in consideration.”